Jasmine Parr, Courage To Come Back Award finalist, shares her story

“I feel confined in a lot of ways because of my disability. Being outside in nature is just so freeing. There are possibilities,” she says. “When I am in the vast space of it I know how little I really am. It is very humbling.”

That day on the beach, she worked with the staff and volunteers to transfer from her wheelchair to the kayak. With limited use of her hands and a tendency to tip to the side, they problem solved together to find a way to securely support her in the boat. It was nearly an hour before they left the beach, she recalls, but once they hit the water it was just “awesome.”

It had been five years since a car accident changed the course of her life. In her 20s she was living in Calgary, working as the general manager of a group of pubs after working her way up in the hospitality industry. She was on her way to owning her own home and her focus was very much on work. That changed one early morning in July when she lost control of her car on a stretch of gravel road. 

“The car rolled and they say I hit the median,” she says. “Not having my seatbelt on, I broke my neck.”

Airlifted to hospital, Jasmine woke up in the ICU, intubated and paralyzed. Her mother had to tell her the doctor said she would never walk again. 

“You lose a lot in that couple of minutes between when you wake up and when you are told. It’s almost like there is a death; of the dreams you had and who you were,” she says. “But I am still the same person. I can still do a lot of things.”

Jasmine was in the hospital from July 2003 to May 2004. As she healed, her lungs repeatedly collapsed and she was intubated regularly. Over time the scar tissue consumed her throat and compromised her vocal cords. Together with her family, she consented to and waited for the opportunity to undergo a new surgery technique to repair the damage.

“We decided that being a quad was not so bad,” she says. “Not being able to communicate, for me, would be unbearable.”

She got her voice back and continued to heal. In May of 2004, she moved to B.C. to be closer to her family. She spent the next eight months at the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver and in December of that year she moved into her own apartment in Victoria.

Jasmine says she got lucky with the care she received and the people who helped her, but those around her have a different perspective. For Tonya Kessler, a nurse who helped Jasmine through her early rehabilitation, she knows that Jasmine is an inspiration to others. “Jasmine has an inner strength that allowed her to accept responsibility for the situation and turn things from what seemed impossible to possible,” she says. “She has overcome numerous obstacles that looked insurmountable, and still has the heart and hustle to give back.”

“She has made a difference in a lot of people’s lives,” adds her mom Inez Smith. “She has shown a lot of people what a person with a disability can do. She didn’t give up. She came back.”

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For Jasmine, that meant reconnecting with her community. As soon as she was able, she poured her energy into volunteer work. She started at the school near her home, reading to children. From there she coordinated other volunteers and helped at the front desk of the Victoria Disability Resource Centre for four years. A one-day a week commitment quickly turned into two and then five.

She was actively involved in the efforts of the Victoria Harbour Authority to install safety railings on the Odgen Point breakwater, a walkway that previously had not been safely accessible for people with mobility concerns or young children. Her efforts were rewarded with the honour of being the first person to access the newly railed walkway.

Her involvement with Power To Be Adventure Therapy has come full circle. Having benefited from kayaking and camping program experiences, Jasmine gives back to the organization as a speaker at fundraising events and is an active advocate for raising awareness about the opportunities the non-profit organization provides and the power to nature to heal. With the help of adaptive computer equipment, she joined the staff team as the board administrative assistant in 2014.  

“I had been treated so kindly by health-care providers and other people with disabilities that I wanted to try and pass that along,” she says. “I need to try and make other people feel as lucky, welcome and settled as I felt through the whole process. I didn’t realize I had the power to do that until Power To Be. Seeing what I could do… it really gets into your head ‘what else could I do?’”

– Story shared by Jasmine Parr

On behalf of Power To Be, congratulations to Jasmine for being shortlisted as as finalist for the 2015 Courage To Come Back Awards!